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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 - Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38

By Cliff Smith



Our Score:


The major changes have happened on the inside. The sensor has been upgraded from 10.1 to 12.1 megapixels, but remains the same size, 1/2.3 inches. This is very small, a size usually found in compact cameras, but then most of the FZ38's rivals use this sensor size too, and as we'll see later it doesn't seem to cause a problem. The f/2.8 - f/4.4 18x zoom Leica lens is also the same as the FZ28, and since the sensor size is unchanged it retains the same focal length range, equivalent to 27-486mm. I'm glad to see that Panasonic has resisted the temptation to chase after Olympus with its 26x zoom SP-590UZ.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 back

One of the major improvements is in the optical image stabilisation, which is now known as Power OIS. It's always hard to judge the performance of IS systems accurately, but I was able to take shake-free shots at some very slow shutter speeds, as low as 1/25th of a second at the full extent of the zoom, which is nearly four stops of extra stability.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 flash

Another improvement is the face detection system, which now incorporates automatic face recognition. The way that it works is, I think, slightly creepy. Every time you take a picture that includes someone's face, the camera stores that face. If it recognises the same face in more than a few shots, it will prompt you to register a name for that person, and will then each time they appear in a photo the camera will optimise the focus and exposure to concentrate on that person. Up to six people can be recorded, with three face views per person for faster recognition. It's almost as though the camera is watching, and remembering…

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 side

The most significant improvement is of course the video mode, although let's not forget that the FZ28 also has 1280 x 720 30fps HD video recording. What the FZ38 adds is stereo audio and recording in the high-quality AVCHD Lite format, like the Lumix TZ7. The back of the camera now sports an extra button which starts video recording, although there is a delay of about a second and a half, so plan ahead if you don't want to miss the start. There is also a new addition to the mode dial, a creative movie mode which allows manual aperture and shutter speed control, which is a nice feature. As well as this the zoom lens can be used during video recording, with a dual-speed control for slow, smooth zooms.

Panasonic is really pushing the FZ38's video abilities in its press campaign, and with good reason. It's not quite the perfect hybrid of still and video camera, because there's no such animal, and it can't match the full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution of the Canon SX1 IS, but it certainly has the best video mode in its likely price range.


July 28, 2009, 6:00 am

Man Alive. I want this Camera even if my bank balance wont. Its pretty much a do it all device. Are we talking over 300 notes or what?

Cliff Smith

July 28, 2009, 8:22 am

There's no news on pricing for this or Panasonic's three other new cameras yet, and there probably won't be for several weeks, but I'd guess it'll launch at about the same price that the FZ28 did, around £290.


July 28, 2009, 10:07 am

Wow, I'm impressed, that's the quickest I think I've ever seen a review of a just announced product appear on TR :D


July 28, 2009, 11:27 am

With CCD sensor size 2.33 it is hard to believe that it is getting 10/10 for image quality. Wait one month for Fuji's S200EXR with Super CCD sensor size 1.6 and EXR technology.

Geoff Richards

July 28, 2009, 12:28 pm

Lars, you cynic - there's even a video review! ;)


July 28, 2009, 1:24 pm

Even my five year old compact had a larger sensor size than this...


July 28, 2009, 5:44 pm

It always amuses me to see how often Exeter cathedral has scaffolding around it.

Harry Fowler

July 28, 2009, 11:43 pm

What about the Fujifilm Finepix S9600 for best review. That's an absolutely awesome camera. I've owned one for a year now and haven't even considered upgrading to an SLR. I know they're generally better and more flexible, but I'm living off a student budget :)

Paul 15

July 29, 2009, 2:17 am

As an owner of an FZ18, I'm rather dissapointed they kept to a small sensor. I would like to have seen a reduction of noise at the higher iso settings. Is there a reason manufactures don't produce a compact with a larger sensor even if it means a larger body size? On a simialr theme isn't it possible to produce a dslr but with a macro and large zoom lens that is found on compacts.


July 29, 2009, 2:21 am


It amuses me more that I have never ever seen anyone working on said scaffolding in any review!

Geoff Richards

July 29, 2009, 4:08 am

Cliff rubs them out in Photoshop for consistent test shots (I'm joking of course!)

Ron 1

July 29, 2009, 12:34 pm

Being a relative newbie and a 'point and shoot' person with a Sony DSC-P120, would I be better to go for this or the TZ7?

Any advice appreciated.

James Morris

July 29, 2009, 3:51 pm

@Geoff He always manages to catch these English workmen on a tea break somehow. No idea how he manages that!

Barry Ward

July 29, 2009, 7:35 pm

I have the fz28 and am VERY happy with it. I am most impressed with it's macro capability, matching that of my old SLR which I no longer use. The only thing I wish was better was noise on higher ISO levels. There's little to seperate that and the new model- I wonder if some would just be happier paying less for the earlier model.

Cliff Smith

July 29, 2009, 9:14 pm

Now that you mention it, I don't think I've ever actually seen anyone working on that scaffolding. A friend of mine is a stonemason working on the restoration project, but I only ever see him in the pub across the green. No wonder the job's been going on for so long; it probably also explains why the cathedral took 300 years to build in the first place.

They should have got Polish builders in, it would have been finished in a couple of weeks.


July 29, 2009, 10:33 pm

I noticed in the local Gazette the Council has put out tenders for scaffolding restoration.

Tony Walker

July 30, 2009, 8:39 am


TZ7 is a truly wonderful camera - I own one. You can't go wrong with it.

Tony Walker

July 30, 2009, 8:41 am

@ all the naysayers

If they've done as good a job with the sensor and optics on this as they have on the TZ7 then it will be one fine camera indeed, regardless of sensor size.


July 30, 2009, 1:01 pm

@Pihrana: Park Cameras has it on pre-order for £320, putting it in the entry-level DSLR price range where most other bridge cameras also seem to be ending up nowadays.

Tom Barry

July 30, 2009, 7:24 pm

How can this be the best of breed if it doesn't have a hot shoe?


August 2, 2009, 9:21 pm

@Cliff - advice please... this review is tempting me to upgrade from Lumix DMC-FZ30 (which serves me v. well), mainly due to the video features which I use occassionally but not enough to want/afford a separate camcorder. Thoughts?


August 4, 2009, 6:16 pm

Im hoping that maybe I can grab a clearance bargain on the FZ28 when this starts hitting stores.

John Shewsbury

August 5, 2009, 3:03 pm

I owned FZ28, bought it in February 2009 after reading Cliff Smith's review and another review in www.steves-digicams.com

FZ28 is indeed a powerful super zoom bridge camera, maybe just loss a little bit on points to that Canon SX10 but FZ28 still win on price.

I rather buy an extra additional add-on lens for my current FZ28 rather than upgrading to FZ38 (at least not for this year)

However, if I suddenly hit a lottery, I don't mind upgrading to Panasonic G1 - the red color...


August 6, 2009, 3:00 am


I currently have a Panasonic DMC-TZ1 which I love. I have taken fantastic photo's with this, however I am thinking about upgrading and saw the FZ28 today.

If I was to upgrade should I go for the FZ28 or the FZ38? I have also seen second hand FZ28's on ebay and was considering buying from there as I don't have a lot of cash to throw around at the moment.

What would you suggest? The full whack of cash or the second hand?

Thanks for your help in advance.


August 6, 2009, 7:56 pm

I own the FZ28 and I like it very much. But I'd rather have the new camera. While I'm not all that interested in the new video capability, it's nice to have if you need it. But what really attracts me are its improved optical image stabilization ability, faster auto focusing and improved low light picture quality.

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